The collective food experience just isn't what it used to be.

With all the talk of food sensitivities and allergies in children, diabetes and other health problems, things have gotten a little out of hand.

When people invite us over to dinner these days, the first question isn't, "Can you bring the salad?"

It's, "Any food allergies we should be aware of?"

Walk through the halls of an elementary school and you see postings of "peanut-free zones" all over the classroom. We received a letter last week informing us that my son's Spanish class would be eating tortillas in class, and we were to notify the school if our children had a corn allergy.

I don't mean to make light of a dangerous subject for some people. It's just that our societies eating habits have shifted. We are all walking around on gluten-free, dairy free, tree-nut free eggshells. I can't even bring cupcakes to school for my son's birthday. I need to provide a treat that is store-bought and sealed for the kids to take home and eat in the presence of their parents. 

Consider the following conversation I had after church on Sunday. As primary chorister, I've challenged the kids to learn the songs "Books of the New Testament" and "Books of the Book of Mormon." If they can sing them to me perfectly, I make them a plate of chocolate chip cookies. This method, by the way, has been wildly successful, and we've had a lot of cookies flying out our door.

After primary a mother came up after she learned her daughter had earned her cookies.

"Because of her peanut allergy, she needs to have chocolate chips not processed on machines with nuts," she cautioned. I appreciated the warning and assured her I'd hunt for the purest of chocolate. She then mentioned she'd be making cupcakes for my son's primary class on Sunday. I cringed.

"We're off gluten and dairy right now," I said. "But you can buy gluten-free cupcake mix." In the end, we joked that she should bring cookies for her own daughter, and I could supply the gluten-free cupcake. It's a tricky business, this food matter.

Because we're gluten-free right now, I'm on hyper alert. Everywhere I turn, bread and crackers are standing in my way. I've always been a label reader, but now I am even more precise. Even just a hint of wheat germ and it goes back on the shelf, with a sigh.

Which brings me to my next source of stress. I'm in charge of snacks for soccer in two weeks. What to bring? It seems the only allergy-free foods out there are rice, apples, potatoes and salad, a wildly popular combination for soccer games, I'm sure.

You can picture it, can't you, when I pull up with my (dairy-free!) baked-potato bar? Or my individually packaged bowls of sticky rice? I'll be blacklisted by the 7-year-olds for life.

I just wish, on occasion, that we could return to the days of carefree eating, when it wasn't about protein and trace minerals and products containing soy and wheat, when kids smacked around eating those prepackaged cherry pies, and no one worried that they were eating sin itself.

I guess what I'm saying is, I don't really care about having my cake. But I sure would like to eat it, gluten, dairy, nuts and all.

Tiffany Gee Lewis writes humorous and thoughtful commentary on the life of a stay-at-home mother in her column, From the Homefront, which appears on on Tuesdays.

Follow her blog, "The Tiffany Window," at